For those who find the terms Historicism, Preterism, and Futurism ambiguous, the definitions are herein supplied:
Historicism teaches that Jesus Christ’s “unveiling” to the Apostle John, that comprises the Book of Revelation, renders an on-going history of the “church,” or “called-out-ones,” from the time of John until the Second Advent.
Preterism generally attempts to place the fulfillment of all prophecy at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, yet some Preterists look at fulfillment when Pagan Rome fell in 410 AD. Most Preterists are of the Post-Millennial school and believe the “called-out-ones” will eventually, through preaching of the Gospel and power of the Holy Spirit, convert the whole world to Christianity. Because that process could take 100, 1000, or 5000 years, no miscalculations are possible.
Futurism places events prophesied in Chapters 4 through 19 of the Book of Revelation into the future at the end of the Christian era. The term “Futurism” is often found as a part of the longer title “Dispensational, Pre-Trib Rapture, Futurist.” One may use any of the individual designations to refer to the whole, which is often done. By their own words, it is evident that most Futurists are Pre-Trib Rapturists, and most Rapturists are Futurists. Both share their belief in Dispensationalism. This article focuses on the prophetic question of Futurism, not on the Pre-Trib Rapture issue because many others have adequately covered that study. Mr. Dave MacPherson has done excellent work in researching that question, and his books are readily available.
Where We Are Today
For the past 50 or 60 years, Christian bookstores have carried the usual Bibles and books on Christian living. However, for the most part, their Bible study themes and their books concerning prophecy were of the Dispensational, Pre-Trib Rapture, Futurist point of view. This was the popular view during that time, because as history will substantiate, the high-water mark of the Futurist teaching was reached during the first half of the twentieth century. During that era, many events came to pass that seemed to add credence to their theory.
In 1897, as a starting point, Mr. Theodore Herzl organized the World Zionist Movement; the Scofield Reference Bible was published in 1907; November, 1917, the Balfour Declaration pledged the British government to the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine; December 11, 1917, British forces took Palestine, including Jerusalem, from the Turks; from the 1930’s and the rise of Benito Mussolini, many potential anti-Christs have risen; in 1948, the UN partitioned Palestine, forming the Israeli state; and the six-day war of 1967 gave Israeli forces the capital city of Jerusalem. However, these events did not bring about the anticipated rapture.
What has generated this recent interest in Preterism? It appears that there have been an increasing number of ministers, scholars, and writers who are producing books espousing the Preterist viewpoint and pointing out the obvious errors and flaws of Futurism. Perhaps there is also a growing number of Pre-Trib Rapturists who have become weary of not seeing some of their treasured prophesies come to pass, causing the Futurists to look elsewhere for answers. For example, the Pre-Trib Rapturists taught that when the UN gave Palestine to the Jews in 1948, the rapture would occur and that the last seven years of the Prophet Daniel’s tribulation time-clock would tick off. But seven years passed, and another seven years passed, and no rapture. Then they began to teach that for the Jews to really be in possession of the land, they must hold the Capital City, Jerusalem. This came about as a result of the 1967 War. Surely then the rapture would happen, and the last seven years of tribulation would tick off. History is a witness to what did not happen.
As a result of these miscalculations, it appears that some teachers, preachers, and other knowledgeable individuals of the Pre-Trib Futurist school have concluded that there was undoubtedly something amiss with their eschatology, and they are looking into another viewpoint.
Both the Futurists and the Preterists spare no words in attacking the other’s position. They have been at odds for years, but the verbal fisticuffs seem to have intensified during the past decade. Their thinking seems to be that if they can prove the other wrong, then that automatically proves their position to be correct. Not true. The Historicist believes they are both in error.